In a recent study of the book of Jonah, the Lord helped me to see the story through a different set of lens. Instead of seeing a prophet who, at first glance, disregards God’s instruction to go and warn the city of Nineveh of their wickedness, I see a prophet who resorts to his feelings rather than principle.
Jonah does not feel like following God’s action plan. Subsequently, his thought is to flee to Tarshish, a different location from where he is assigned. You know how the story unfolds! During his tempestuous journey by ship, he declares, “I am an Hebrew; and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, which hath made the sea and the dry land.” Meanwhile, he also makes the passengers on the ship aware that he is fleeing from the presence of the Lord.
No soon after Jonah plunges into the abyss of evil thinking, he ends up in the belly of a fish who takes him “down to the bottoms of the mountains” (Jonah 2:6). God prepares this fish to swallow him. A merciful God had a plan to rescue the prophet who had asked that he be thrown into the sea so that he would not endanger the lives of those on the ship.
Though Jonah is feeling more inclined to die rather than to preach, God gives him another chance. In the belly of the fish, Jonah prays for help, recognizing that salvation is of the Lord. The Lord speaks to the fish, and it vomits out Jonah upon the dry land.
He is now eager to follow God’s instruction to preach to Nineveh, but self-preservation is more dear to him than what the gospel has power to do. It displeases Jonah that the people repent of their evil ways, and that God no longer wants to destroy the city. The Bible says, “Jonah was very angry” (Jonah 4:1). This anger prevents him from doing sound reasoning, and is evidenced by the fact that he sees God’s grace mercy, and kindness to Nineveh in a negative light (Jonah 4:3). Further reading of the book of Jonah also reveals that he has more sympathy for a withering plant than people who are ready to perish.
How different are the thoughts of Jesus? “He saw the whole length of the path He must travel in order to save that which was lost. Every pang that rent His heart, every insult that was heaped upon His head, every privation that He was called to endure, was open to His view before He laid aside His crown and royal robe, and stepped down from the throne, to clothe His divinity with humanity. ...He knew the anguish that would come upon Him. He knew it all, and yet He said, ‘Lo, I come: in the volume of the Book it is written of Me, I delight to do Thy will, O My God: yea, Thy law is within My heart.’”Desire of Ages, p. 234
It is the love for souls that caused Jesus to lay down His life by means of crucifixion. “The self-sacrifice, the sympathy, the love, manifested in the life of Christ are to reappear in the life of the worker for God”(p.239). In fact, in the daily round of activities, it is wise to trust the Word of God. This is following principle. Feelings should not dictate what we do; they are unstable.
In the book, What Shall I Do to Inherit Eternal Life, the author, Margaret Davis, says it is imperative to give up our rights to use Satan’s methods to fight our battles. “He wants to work in us impatience, irritation, resentment, anger, envy, jealousy, lust, hatred, bitterness, and rebellion (p. 33). On the other hand, God wants us to humble ourselves before Him so that He can carry out His will in and through us. Surrender your feelings to Him today.